DETROIT – The calendar has officially turned to July, and for teams like the Detroit Tigers, that means it's time to start shopping around any players who could bring young prospects into the organization.
Perhaps the most valuable trade chip the Tigers have this season is starting pitcher Matt Boyd.
While Boyd, 28, doesn't have a long track record of being a star, he's been an ace for the Tigers this season, striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings with a 1.09 WHIP and 3.58 FIP.
After posting a career best 2.1 WAR in 2018, Boyd is backing up his improvement this season, already up to 2.9 WAR, among the best for pitchers in MLB.
The most important factor in trade talks involving Boyd is that he has three more seasons of team control after the 2019 season. In other words, teams are trading for 3 1/2 years of Boyd, not renting him through the end of October.
In the past, pitchers having this type of season with so much team control remaining yield huge returns at the trade deadline. For example, look at the Jose Quintana deal between the Chicago White Sox and Cubs in 2017.
Quintana wasn't having as good a season as Boyd, with a 9.4 K/9, a 1.32 WHIP and 4.02 FIP. He was more established as a solid starting pitcher, however, posting ERAs under 3.50 each of the previous three seasons with the White Sox.
Overall, Boyd is in the same range as Quintana was in 2017 in terms of value.
What did the White Sox get for Quintana? A massive haul of prospects.
The Cubs' package was highlighted by No. 5 overall prospect Eloy Jimenez and No. 58 overall prospect Dylan Cease. They also threw in minor leaguers Bryant Flete and Matt Rose.
Jimenez was an absolutely elite prospect, and Cease was one of the top pitching prospects in the game. The Cubs needed a starting pitcher, and the White Sox capitalized on their most valuable asset.
If early rumors are to be believed, Al Avila is trying to do the same.
Last week, there were reports that the Tigers were discussing a Boyd trade with the New York Yankees. Avila reportedly asked for star infielder Gleyber Torres, who was the No. 2 prospect in 2017 before getting called up.
Torres is just 22 years old and is hitting .295 with 19 home runs, 14 doubles and 32 walks in 76 games. He has a .913 OPS and is a solid defensive player at second base and shortstop.
There's no way the Yankees will part with Torres, but that should be the type of return Avila looks for in a potential Boyd trade. He has another four weeks to make a deal, and even if he doesn't, Boyd will still have 2 1/2 years of control at next year's deadline.
Another trade partner that's surfaced this week is the Houston Astros, who fleeced the Tigers in a Justin Verlander trade two seasons ago.
Houston is probably hoping they could crush the Tigers in another trade for a starting pitcher, but Avila reportedly wants No. 10 overall prospect Kyle Tucker included in a deal.
Tucker is hitting .278 in Triple-A this season with 24 home runs, 19 doubles and 19 stolen bases. He owns a .957 OPS and is just 22 years old.
The Astros apparently don't want to move Tucker. That's understandable, but it should also prompt the Tigers to look elsewhere.
Detroit is hurting for bats in the farm system, and Boyd is a rare opportunity to bring at least one truly elite prospect into the fold.
It looks like the Tigers might have whiffed on the Verlander trade, and he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the Astros over the last three seasons. They can't afford to let another asset go without making a dent in the rebuild.
Boyd is one of the most valuable starting pitchers on the market this year, so the price should only go up as July 31 approaches. Avila needs to nail this move and bring an elite bat to the organization.